Tag: children


This Is How It Begins: The Budding Writer

  We were walking in the woods one morning, having inspected the pond for insects and the river for currents. The air was cool for August, but the sun shone through the trees splashing patterns on the path. There was magic in the air.            “Grandma, I looked you up on my mom’s phone,” said Wyatt, my beautiful and brilliant seven-year-old grandson.            “You mean, you Googled me?” I asked.            “Yeah, I found a picture of you and a picture of your book,” Wyatt said, grinning at me with pride, which I think was directed more at his research skills than that his grandmother had written a book. Still, I was honored and touched.            He climbed up on a huge rock, posing for a photo with me his grandfather took, and ran ahead into the forest. The sight of his blonde head, lean tall young body, jumping over limbs made my heart sing.            “I have a story, too,” he said, called back as he forged ahead.            “Tell us about it,” I said.            And he did. The tale began with three children in the middle of one night when they awoke to join in an adventure that began with them entering a portal on an urgent rescue mission.            “Wow, that’s a great hook,” I said, explaining to him what a hook was and how important it is to excite your reader right from the start.            He nodded and went on to tell a tale with twists and turns, spirals and arcs, characters that included Dr. Seuss and his dog, as we listened, spellbound by a seven-year-old whose imagination was unfolding before us in the forest. I asked an occasional question, but I hesitated to interrupt the miracle we were witnessing. Wyatt answered patiently, moving on to the next scene in his story, clearly pleased by my interest.            There was a finale, which Wyatt revealed just as we returned to the same pond where we had begun our walk. The climax was both happy and satisfying. Pleased with himself and our admiration for his talent, Wyatt told us he had lots of stories to tell.            Is this how it begins? The budding of a writer. A child born to be a storyteller. We encouraged Wyatt to try to put his stories on paper or to dictate it into one of the many devices children his age consider to be natural appendages. We explained, stories are gifts to be shared.            I wondered. Do all children have stories inside of them or are some just born to tell tales, while others to make music or paint or sculpt?  Where do these talents go, if not nurtured? Do we suffocate our children with busyness and activities we think they should be doing and ignore what they naturally and instinctively hold within themselves?            A seed sits in every child, waiting to be planted, watered, and grown.  If ignored, the plant wilts and goes to seed. Decades later, the adult wonders what is lying dormant in the empty cave within him. With a little luck and a lot of tenacity, the adult may rediscover the gift that was his to give from the beginning.            Let’s honor the artists in our children. Let there be writers, sculptors, painters, singers, musicians, and artists of all kinds, nurtured from seed. For this to happen, all we have to do is listen and love.

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The Little Reader

 I was just sitting on a neighbor’s porch late one lazy Saturday afternoon this summer with a group of other neighbors. We were chatting, watching people saunter by when a young girl, around eight or nine years old walked down the lane carrying a book half the size of her. People who are lugging books around with them always interest me, but a child this age intrigued me. I was tempted to call out, “Hey, what are you reading?” but then I noticed she kept turning around, as if she was waiting for someone to catch up with her. Remembering how my own children didn’t like to be the focus of adult attention at that age, I reconsidered saying anything to her that might embarrass and discourage her admirable reading habits. She turned the corner and I was satisfied just to know there was at least one budding reader out there.            I went back to the adult conversation, lost in the banter about the latest political folly, when I heard the barrel deep voice of a man thundering outside. “Zoey! Zoey, you come right back here. Right now. This minute.” I crooked my neck to see a large middle-aged man with a Johnny Walker-red face strutting past the porch and around the corner.            “Don’t make me come after you,” he said. I feared for Zoey if she didn’t obey him, but more if she did.            “I just want to go to my special place and read,” she said, slowly approaching the corner where he now stood, planted like a prison guard.            “I don’t care what you want to do. You come back here.”            “I just want to read my book,” she said with quiet defiance. But he won, and she followed behind him, clutching her book to her chest, her chinned bowed down.            I learned from my friends that Zoey was part of a large clan that was having a noisy, chaotic barbecue that evening and that her “special place” was a quiet nook where three bunk beds had been built, one on top of another.            Zoey has stayed with me for a couple of weeks now. Not in my home, but definitely within my heart. I ache for the young reader who simply needed to escape from raucous social event and to retreat into a spot where she could crawl into her book. How many times when stuck in a social situation have I said to myself, I just want to crawl into bed with my book?            It’s like that for many of us. Readers who as children didn’t care if the book was too heavy or the words too long. Books were our friends.  If you were lucky, like I was, there was an adult nurturing your love of books, not a book brut, chastising it. When I was a child, I would visit my grandmother each summer at the seashore. I’d arrive as soon as school was out. “Nanna” would take me to the library and let me take out as many books as they would allow. We’d return to her screen porch filled with the smell of the ocean where she’d point to a cushioned daybed piled with pillows. “You go start one of those books while I get you a lemonade. You worked so hard this year in school, dear, you need to rest and read.”  Nanna didn’t think I needed her permission to read. To her, it was like a medical prescription, essential for health.            Before you can be a writer, you have to be a reader, and I thank Nanna for taking my hand and walking me through the door to the library. I hope for Zoey and children everywhere, a nurturing adult is serving you words next to your vegetables and yogurt. The world needs readers and writers.            Who nurtured you as a young reader?  Was it the door to becoming a writer?   

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